Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
It was combat. Faces were tense with the unnerving desperation of wavering hope.
Soldiers strapped to their guns, pinned down to a “safe” place laced with mines, had been holding their precarious position for five months. Over one hundred of their teammates, comrades, and friends had been carried off and buried. There was no time for grief. No room for sentiment.
Who would be next, no one knew.
From the outside, it appeared that order and discipline in the form of rank and file remained intact. A lieutenant was in charge now, having assumed the role after the captain and commander were killed.
However, tempers flared. Brave chatter had morphed into a single thought. Hold.
Hold out, hang in there, stay the course, keep yourself together, don’t think too much, don’t lose focus, push away the emotions, calm your nerves… hold. Above all, remember those who died are heroes. Your sacrifice is secondary to the mission.
They say there are no atheists in foxholes. I doubt if it’s true. Human nature tends to cling to the familiar in times of stress. Change is hard.
The above scene is merely my humble description of a sci-fi television portrayal of war.* In reality, men, women, and children fight battles against trauma every day. Soldiers who stood their ground in actual wars, victims of abuse and torture for other people’s sexual pleasure, witnesses to accidents and violent crimes – all these and more have survived literal and figurative foxholes.
Well after one has escaped, and is living, breathing, and responding to outward freedom, unresolved trauma pins down the mind. “Safe” places rarely are. One never knows when a bomb of memories, triggers, and emotional overload will explode.
Relief is not complete. Night tremors, jumpiness, horrifying nightmares, unrelenting memory tapes, hypervigilant distrust, depression, rage, a sense of being different from everyone else, and loss of innocence are only part of an ongoing struggle for survival. Despite abject aloneness, there is still a single thought.
It is in my foxhole of PTSD, anxiety disorder, and major depression that I find it impossible to be atheistic. I held my position for decades, avoiding thinking or feeling too much. This means of survival wore me out until the day I was looking at the walls of a psychiatric ward, more alone than I thought possible.
Stigma would tell you I was weak and undisciplined. Reality says I held out the best I knew how, long beyond what this human body could take. I broke.
Does that mean my faith in Jesus is a crutch? No, I’ve used emotional crutches. Compulsive eating, running up debt, escapism, over-dependence on other people, self-punishment, religiosity – all were destructive and added to my pain.
Jesus’s love is actual, reality, and present. One has to know him to understand this. Stubborn refusal to surrender to him will pin anyone to a philosophical imagining of religion. Religion never saved anyone.
I know the one who allows me to rest from striving. While learning to heal from trauma, his words are calming, “Peace, be still.”
Because of him, I can release my hold, and just be held.
Today’s Helpful Word
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.
1st picture from rgbstock.com
2nd from kozzi.com
*Deep Space Nine, one of the Star Trek television series